Month: April 2017

French Presidential Election: Experiences of a ‘Primo Votant’

For David, one of our final year students, the end of teaching and assessment was particularly significant this year because it meant a return to his home in France in time to join the ranks of the primo votants (first-time voters) in the first round of the French presidential elections. We’ve asked him to share his thoughts on this experience and we’re delighted to be able to share this post:

2017 David Primo Votant April“I voted in a French presidential election last Sunday for the first time and it felt exhilarating. Voting in France has always been an essential element when it comes to being a citizen. It is not only regarded as a right but, first and foremost, as a civic duty. Elections are always held on a Sunday so, in my family, as in many others, we all go to the polling station, which is usually in a local school hall. As I cast my vote by placing my sealed envelope in the ballot box, the officer solemnly announced “a voté” (has voted) and I signed the register. I felt apprehensive, yet excited, at the prospect of voting as I was aware of the importance of my choice, especially nowadays with the current climate of political uncertainty.

On leaving the polling station, we bought croissants and pains au chocolat (ouh la la!) and discussed the possible outcome of the elections with the results due to be announced at 8 o’clock that night. People discuss politics quite openly in France and the French can be very vocal about their political views which can be a source of tension and heated debate during family meals. The situation was especially tense this year as several non-mainstream candidates were in the running for the Elysée. The atmosphere as we waited for the results on Sunday evening was one of excitement and impatience. And it was nerve-racking when the results were actually announced. I was in front of the telly with my family, glass of wine in hand (bien sûr !), watching David Pujadas, one of France’s most famous TV presenters, who already knew the results, commenting on the atmosphere in the headquarters of the various candidates, with the countdown to the results behind him.

After what seemed like an interminable wait, voici the results: Macron and Le Pen are through to the second round. A shockwave of disappointment, fear, joy, excitement is felt throughout France. For the first time in the history of the 5th Republic, politicians representing neither the traditional left nor right wing parties are through to the second round of the presidential elections. The next morning, the streets were empty; people were either at work or stayed at recovering from the shock of the results perhaps, or from the hangover from the wine the night before. Overall, this presidential race has created an increase in political awareness among French people, especially the younger generation, not unlike in the U.S. elections. It is however worth noting that more than 20% chose not to vote. The two remaining candidates now have a little more than a week to convince voters who did not vote for them in the first round that they should be the next French President. Whatever the result on Sunday 7th May, we can safely it will be a first for France! Vive la République et vive la France!”

Many thanks to David for this blog piece and we look forward to an update after the 2nd round!

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“To Infinity and Beyond…”: 2017 Finalists’ Future Plans

For our students who will be graduating with degrees involving French in June this year, the exams and assessment for French are now over, the essays have all been submitted, and we wanted to get a chance to share the plans of those who’ll be in our 2017 graduating class. They don’t all know what they’re going to do once they graduate and their plans may well change over the months ahead but, just as a snapshot of the range of directions our languages graduates end up going in, here goes, in no particular order:

Emily, who’ll be graduating with Single Honours French, is “planning to go into firefighting and just waiting for the next recruitment drive, doing whatever else pays the rent in the meantime. I don’t know where I’ll end up doing this in the long run, but I’m very happy to be able to have Montreal and the south of France as strong contenders.” Mareike, who’ll be graduating in Psychology with a European Language, is off to Bournemouth where she’ll be embarking on an MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour (and hopefully finding ways to keep going with French). Sarah, who will be graduating with Single Honours French, has already relocated to Italy where she is working as an assistant park manager for a company on a French campsite. She worked as an employee for the company for the last two summers in France and since finishing university has moved up the ranks thanks to earning her degree, and having more experience. She says this is “a great way to work abroad and meet new people whilst also giving you the chance to live and experience French culture outside of university.”

Lysiane, whose degree is in French and Spanish, is planning on doing a postgraduate degree at Stirling in Strategic Communications and Public Relations. Her plan is to be able to apply for jobs in the future with skills in languages and in another field such as marketing or public relations because “most of the jobs I have been looking at are looking for people with language skills along with something else. I think this postgraduate degree will give me more experience and knowledge so that one day I might be able to become a PR in the hotel business or the airlines.” As for Kitti, who studied French and Global Cinema with us, a TEFL course beckons and she plans “to move to Grenoble for a year or two to teach English and in the meantime work on my French until it’s perfect. At the moment I’m doing an interpreting job and I love it, but I feel like with Hungarian there are not enough opportunities, so it would be good to add French to the list. Plus, I would love to try teaching so I think this would be a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.”

For Hannah, who’ll be graduating in French, teaching also lies ahead but in a different context: “After graduation, my plan is to complete a PGDE Primary course at UWS. My very rough business plan for this summer is to start up a French club for babies/toddlers and their parents/guardians where they will be able to learn some nursery rhymes and basic numbers, colours, and animals in preparation for starting French in primary school.” Alex, who’ll also be graduating in French, “will be working an internship in project management/operations for Ironman (the triathlon company, not Robert Downey Jr. sadly!) until October and then I will begin work as a Management Trainee at Enterprise Rent a Car on their graduate scheme. At some point in the next 5 years, having gained some business experience, I will seek to do a Masters or MBA (likely at Stirling) in order to improve my chances with larger employers.”

Julie, who started studying Japanese (informally) alongside her French and English Studies degree, is keen to get the opportunity to develop those language skills further so has applied to “Waseda University and the International Christian University in Japan for a postgraduate degree (Comparative Cultures at ICU and Culture and Communication at Waseda). In case I’m not accepted, I have also applied for a job at two different teaching companies that provide English teaching in Japan (Aeon and Gaba). I also plan to apply at Interac, which is a company that hires Assistant teachers to help with English teaching at Japanese High Schools and Junior High Schools. I am quite determined to get to Japan in one way or another, so I’m hoping…” We’ll keep our fingers firmly crossed! And Luise, a student of French and Spanish, has similarly potentially intercontinental travel on the horizon, having been accepted for an English teaching assistantship in Colombia. For administrative reasons, that might or might not work out, and, in the meantime, Luise has a summer job in Deanston Distillery (as a tour guide): “If Colombia does not work out, I might just stay in Scotland until October and work, then return to Germany and work there (helping families with new-born babies. My au pair experience will come in handy here.) In spring I will look for another opportunity to teach English in South America or Asia, something will eventually work out. I am hoping to get a certificate for teaching German later on – but first I need some experience. Should I feel that I am not a good teacher, I will go into translation (English and Spanish into German).”

Another of our Single Honours French students, Rebecca, is delighted to have just found out that she will be “heading to Canada for the British Council in August. It was a lengthy process and a nerve-racking wait but I now have a position in a secondary school as an English Language Assistant.” And Colm, who has been studying French and Spanish with us, is planning to spend the Summer and possibly the next year working to save some money to be able to undertake a Masters in Translation and Interpreting the following year. And if that doesn’t work out, he and Kitti have grand plans involving taking photos of students proudly holding dissertations on the banks of the beautiful campus lake

We’ll update this post as and when we hear back from other students among this year’s finalists and, most importantly, we wish them all the very best of luck for the future, wherever it might take them!

Erasmus Teaching Mobility: Translation, Elections and Harry Potter…

Last month, we were delighted to welcome Lucie Herbreteau on an Erasmus teaching exchange for a few days and we thought it’d be good to get a chance to pass on her impressions of Stirling:

“I am a teacher at the Catholic University of the West in Angers, France, and I had the opportunity to come to Stirling University for a teaching mobility in March 2017. I arrived in Scotland on Sunday 11th in the afternoon, and I was already impressed by the beautiful landscapes. I must admit that I was lucky to have a mostly sunny weather with very little rain during my stay!

I felt welcome at Stirling University: everyone was extremely nice to me, Jean-Michel DesJacques and Cristina Johnston showed me around the university and explained everything I had to know. I cannot thank them enough for their perfect welcome.

I taught French translation and held a discussion around the French presidential elections with the 4th years and I found all my classes very interesting. The students were curious and we had exciting conversations on the different topics we tackled. The translation classes were particularly stimulating because we studied the translation of a Harry Potter extract in French and discussed the translation of proper names in French, especially the words invented by J.K. Rowling.

2017 Lucie Herbreteau Blog article campus 10April.docxDuring my stay, I walked around the campus which is very pleasant with its lake in the middle. It almost looks like a small village! I also had the opportunity to visit Stirling which is a charming city, as well as Bridge of Allan. I was impressed by the kindness of Scots, always ready to help you. Before leaving on Thursday 16th, I had a little stroll around Edinburgh. It is a very beautiful city with its impressive castle and its attractive streets.

I was deeply pleased with my Erasmus mobility to Stirling University, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to my colleagues in France – or to come back myself! But most of all, I would like to come back to Scotland for a longer period and take the time to travel across its magnificent landscapes.”

Many thanks to Lucie for this blog post and we hope to get a chance to welcome you back to Stirling again in the not-too-distant future!

To 2020 and Beyond for Scotland’s 1+2 Language Policy: Action Plan Launch

This blog post should have been part of last Friday’s updates on what French at Stirling has been up to over the past month or so but, somehow, slipped through the net. Our Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, who is also Stirling’s representative at the UCMLS, attended the launch of the action plan on Scotland’s 1+2 Language Policy a couple of weeks ago and has very kindly found the time to send us this report on the event.

“Taking place just before the Language Show in Glasgow, this was an opportunity for stakeholders across all sectors of education to share their views on the progress made regarding the 1+2 Language Policy.

If you remember, in 2011, the current government launched its 1+2 language policy and stated its commitment to “create the conditions in which every child [in Scotland] will learn two languages in addition to their own mother tongue” over the course of two parliaments or ten years (SNP Manifesto, 2011). Later, the Scottish Government recognised the role that the HE sector could play and stated that it was for the universities themselves to decide on their contribution.

In response to the above, the Scottish branch of the University Council for Modern Languages in Scotland (UCMLS), which represents the interests of university staff working in modern languages, linguistics, cultural and area studies, has committed part of its work since 2013 to supporting the Government’s efforts to implement the 1+2 language policy through a range of cross-sector initiatives, in some of which the University of Stirling is involved such as Student Ambassadors Scheme and the Language Learning, Global Teaching initiative with SCILT.

2017 Glasgow City Chambers March JMDOn Friday 10 March, in the beautiful surroundings of the Glasgow City Chambers, UCMLS launched its action plan after months of consultation with all sectors.  It was an opportunity for all to contribute to and comment on our Action Plan proposals which we will review at yearly intervals.

After some helpful reminders from various colleagues, notably our Chair, Dr. Marion Spöring, on how we got to where we are now, we split into smaller groups for discussion.  There are of course many issues still to be addressed but teacher training seemed to be at the centre of the preoccupations.  I was pleased to note to my discussion group that at Stirling, provisions were in place to train and indeed produce teachers that do not simply meet any minimum requirement.  Au contraire, they are part of our language section just like any other students doing a combined degree, let’s say in French and Politics or Sociology and Spanish.

I am not going to list all the recommendations that were made but in the end, it was good to see so many people dedicated to the provision of languages in Scotland, particularly in a very difficult climate.  I will, however, single out one of them because I strongly believe in the relevance of languages and it is a pity that languages have been left out:  To lobby for a move from STEM to MELTS.  I see no reason why languages should not be included.”

Let the lobbying start here! Many thanks to Jean-Michel for taking the time to send us this post.